Attention, all alterna-parents: your Christmas wish has been answered. This year, your inner conflict of how to expose your child to mainstream holiday classics yet not subject yourself to a grueling rehash of A Christmas Carol or a Nutcracker enema is resolved: Take them to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
If the name sounds familiar, you probably caught this sci-fi holiday hackjob from 1964 on TV when you were a tot. You probably never wanted to catch it again—until now. Under the direction of Brian Newell, the Maverick Theater has unearthed this creature’s saccharine bones and rebuilt it into a retro-cool slapstick show. And the best part is that you can have a beer to get you through the slapstick parts, which would be all the ones your kid is splitting a gut over.
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Here’s what you’ll get: men in giant, green, footied jammies and what appear to be helmets made from ruptured green dodgeballs and toilet-plumbing tubes, running around like buffoons between a makeshift flying-saucer cockpit and Santa’s toy shop while uttering beep-beep noises. (This is why you have that beer.) The Martians have decided to kidnap Santy Claus, you see, and whisk him away to Mars, where monotone green-bean children are in dire need of some ho-ho-ho, crying baby dolls and Tonka trucks. Two goofy earthling kids get caught up in the fray, of course, and Billy and Betty (Ryan Cram and Katie Sapp) are so incredibly dorky that you might think you’re having flashbacks from your own gee-whiz days. The foil of the plan is Mars’ own Mr. Grinch, Voldar (Nathan Makaryk, who walks off with everything but the set), as he attempts to blast Santa and the geek kids out of an airlock, but he’s eventually won over by the spirit of commercial excess and pretending that playing with broken toys is fun (the theme of this particular holiday extravaganza is not giving, but rather using your imagination to turn that lump of coal in your stocking into a Formula One race car).
Before the show, the giant telescreen above the Martian elevator gets you in the retro mood, with endless loops of ’60s toy commercials. The night I went, the audience was filled with sixth-graders, and all eyes were trained like lasers on those toys—the lad next to me even huffed to his pal, “I wonder if they still have cool toys like that—I’ve seen so many things that I want!”
And isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Wanting stuff? It’s heartwarming to know that tradition hasn’t died out, and even sweeter to know that today’s little munchkins can appreciate both the crappy films we had to endure, as well as the crappy plastic toys.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; www.mavericktheater.com. special appearance Dec. 14 by actor Victor Stiles, who played little Billy Foster in the original 1964 movie! Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 4 & 8 p.m. Through Dec. 30. $9-$12.